Why this site changed name, and why you should be cautious about GoDaddy.com

You may have noticed the change: this site used to be hosted on the domain gawd.at. Now it is on mrgazz.com. Why?

Let’s start from the beginning: what was that with the gawd.at domain in the first place? Well, if you go and look at your old feature phone, you’ll see that the letters that form the name are all first letters on the keypad. G is 4, A is 2, W is 9, D is 3, T is 8. The domain name was meant to be typed quickly on an old-style phone. That’s it. No reference to gawd intended. Dawg.at was taken.

I registered the domain with GoDaddy.com. You know, the guys that spend a ton of money on SuperBowl commercials. I know, I should have known. But I didn’t, and they still are the biggest registrar on the Internet – what could go wrong?

I registered the domain in January, years ago. Expiration of the domain was on 1/5/2012. No need to rush – not even now. Then I started getting emails from GoDaddy.com about the renewal, starting on 10/7. The message told me that my credit card was set to expire before the renewal would take place, which was on 1/5/2012.

I thought it one of those marketing messages with no teeth, like when your insurance company tells you to renew for 2 years at no discount, or when you start getting messages about renewing your subscription to a magazine after you barely received the second issue in the mail.

Another message arrived on 11/7, this time swallowed by the spam filter. The content was the same. Discount if I ordered more than $60!

A third message did reach me. It said that they had tried to bill my credit card, but were unsuccessful. The message was sent on 11/12. The billing date was 11/21. Wouldn’t you think it strange that they would try to charge me nine days ahead of the billing date, almost two full months before the domain expires?

The next message was from 12/6, a few days ago. In it, I was informed that the domain gawd.at had been removed from my account on GoDaddy.com. As such, I had lost control over the domain.

I sent a support ticket and received this information:

You must renew your .at domain name 35 days before its expiration date. The renewal date depends on whether you set the domain name to auto-renew or manually renew. We first attempt auto-renewal 54 days prior to the domain name’s expiration date. If the renewal attempt fails, we re-attempt renewal 45 days prior to expiration. If that fails, we make a final renewal attempt 35 days prior to expiration. The .at registry deletes domain names 29 days prior to their expiration dates if you do not renew them.

Of course, I knew nothing of that. That information had not been presented anywhere in the messages sent to me, and by losing administrative control of the domain, I had lost the ability to transfer it to another registrar. For instance, I could have just gone to an Austrian (.at) registrar and registered there before expiration. But to do so, I needed to pay up: “you might be able to recover [your domain name] by paying a redemption fee and the cost of renewal.”

Notice that by doing so, I would have to pay the renewal fee, tying myself to GoDaddy for another year.

Fortunately, I wasn’t married to the name, gawd.at. I created a new domain, mrgazz.com, and transferred the domain name there. You’ll find this same blog here on mrgazz, and I’ll have to find all the places that had bookmarks to gawd.at, and make them transfer – which cannot be automatic, since I lost control of the domain (while I am still registered until 1/5/2012).

Is this behavior unethical? Is it illegal? Should I have been warned? Who knows. I certainly know that I am not going to ever be a GoDaddy customer again. Whether it was my fault or not.